The Black Roots Of Fried Chicken

fried chicken
Briona Lamback
October 11, 2023

It’s battered in a blend of buttermilk, spices, and love, then fried until golden brown and crunchy. Fried chicken has become a staple in Black cuisine and our people know a thing or two about making the iconic food.

While fried chicken’s origins are difficult to trace, there’s no denying that enslaved Black chefs perfected and popularized it as a quintessential part of the culture. 

According to soul food scholar Adrian Miller, we likely began frying the bird based on recipes from Scottish enslavers. But we’ve long had an ancestral gift for seasoning and frying, a cooking tradition that West Africans have used for centuries.

For many, fried chicken, called the “Sunday cluck,” goes hand-in-hand with church. As the cornerstone of Black life, particularly during the Jim Crow era, the church was pivotal for safe gathering,, and after-worship chicken filled folks’ spirits nearly as much as the word.

Its popularity gave way to racist tropes that mainstream media used to dehumanize newly freed Black people during the 19th century. Those stereotypes have stood the test of time, sometimes influencing how we view our food. 

There’s no room for anti-Black shame, especially when these foodways have meant freedom for many of our people.

Our traditions are joyous representations of the best parts of us. Black creativity and innovation are worthy of celebration with every bite.

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